The latest form of the National Population Register (NPR) appears to have retained contentious questions such as “mother tongue, place of birth of father and mother and last place of residence”, according to a document compiled by a committee under the Registrar General of India and shared with District Census officers.
Though NPR was first compiled in 2010 and updated in 2015 , the new questions were part of a trial exercise involving 30 lakh respondents in September 2019. The exercise has been opposed by some States and citizen groups as NPR is the first step toward compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) according to Citizenship Rules, 2003.
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“Along with Census 2021, the database of NPR collected in 2010 and updated in 2015 would be further updated in the first phase of census. The NPR schedule to be used in Census 2021 is given at Annexure X,” the document says. So far, the Government has not officially released the NPR schedule.
According to the Annexure: “National Population Register 2020”, the respondent will have to specify the “name of State and district” if the place of birth of father and mother is in India and mention the country’s name if not born here.
The form will collect details on 14 parameters of all family members. The sub-heads include passport number, relationship to head of the family, whether divorced/widowed or separated, mother tongue, if non-worker, cultivator, labourer, government employee, daily wage earner among others. The form also has a column on Aadhar, mobile phone, Voter ID and driving license number, which are to be provided if available with the respondent.
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The document says that the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country and it is “mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.” While similar data is collected through Census, according to Section 15 of the Census Act, 1948, all individual level information collected in Census are confidential and “only aggregated data are released at various administrative levels.”
The Home Ministry said earlier that data collected under NPR are shared with States and used by Central government for various welfare schemes at individual level.
The NPR already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents. Along with Census, NPR will also be updated digitally for the first time. A mobile application for enumerators has been developed where the existing database will be uploaded. Respondents can also self enumerate.
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The schedule or the form generated through an online system on August 18, is part of a handbook , Census of India 2021 Handbook for Principal/District Census Officers and Charge Officers that has been shared with all States.
“The handbook will be of immense use and serve as a handy tool for the various census functionaries at the field level,” Vivek Joshi, RGI and Census Commissioner, India says in the preface of the book.
The updation of NPR and the first phase of Census — the House listing & Housing Census were to be conducted simultaneously from April-September 2020 but the exercise was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New dates have not been announced yet.
Many Opposition-ruled States have opposed the updation of the NPR due to its link with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the yet to be implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). According to Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003, NPR is the first step towards compilation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or NRC.
The CAA passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019 allows citizenship on basis of religion to six undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. There are apprehensions and fears that the CAA followed by a country-wide NRC will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The government has denied that CAA and NRC are linked and that there are currently any plans to compile a countrywide NRC.